It’s not always easy working from home, and it’s especially challenging when you have young kids. Parents have deadlines, kids are bored, and the combination can be frustrating for everyone. It is not possible for parents to simply neglect their work. It is important to find ways to complete our work while managing our children at the same time. In recent months, this has posed a tremendous challenge to parents. We are all trying to figure out how to work at home on top of other responsibilities. This can include homeschooling children, keeping everyone entertained and healthy, all while maintaining some semblance of sanity. Here are 5 tips for working at home when you have young kids.
1. While working at home when you have young kids, set priorities
You’re not going to accomplish everything you’d like to accomplish in a day. The sooner you accept that fact, the better. That’s not to say you can’t complete the necessities. Set your priorities and decide what absolutely must be completed that day. If you have a big zoom meeting scheduled, followed by some conference call, and then some paperwork, then it’s likely best that you don’t decide to tackle cleaning the house that day as well. Decide what is a reasonable amount of work to get finished, and stick with that. Don’t set yourself for frustration and failure by piling on way too much work for one given day. Prioritize, get the important stuff done, and let the rest go. Applaud what you accomplished. Reward yourself after your day’s work with a soothing activity of your own. A hot bath, a walk by yourself, some alone time, or a glass of wine.
2. Establish clear boundaries
If you are working from home consistently, then you need to establish clear boundaries with the rest of your family. When the door to your office is closed, then that means absolutely no interrupting. If you are on the phone, then they must wait until you are finished. Unless it is an emergency (and discuss as a family what constitutes an emergency), then they are not to disturb you. It is important to set these boundaries. Children do have a way of pushing the limits and trying to get more attention or reaction from you. It’s a compliment in some ways, because they love their parents, but it’s also a bit of a power struggle. Set those clear boundaries and make sure everyone sticks to them. On the flip side of that coin, it is important that you stick to the boundaries as well. If you tell your child that you will be finished working at 3:00 p.m. and free to play Legos with them then, then you need to keep your word on that.
3. Set up your kitchen so they can be independent
Kids are perpetually hungry! Just like cows have four stomachs, I’m convinced my children do as well. They seem to be hungry every hour, and lately it has been even more so. I think a large part of that is boredom with these long days at home. Regardless, I seem to be forever fixing them snacks. When working from home, help your children be more independent. Set up your kitchen in a way that makes it easier for them to grab their own snacks. Have snack bins in the fridge. Fill with cut-up fruit, slices of cheese, yogurt tubes, or anything else they enjoy munching on. Set up your pantry the same way, with kid-friendly snacks within easy reach. Select one of your lower cupboards to be a kids’ cupboard. Keep all of their cups and dishes there, within easy reach.
4. Keep kids entertained
Now, this one may seem incredibly daunting, and you might be asking how in the world do we do that? There is no one right answer. You can try a few different things to make it go a little more smoothly.
Set up activity baskets
You know you’ve got a busy workday ahead of you. Set up a few activity baskets with some things for your child to play with and discover. Make them open-ended, so they can hold your child’s attention for longer. Think craft supplies, legos, pattern blocks, dolls, and clothes, etc.
Relax on screen time
We need to cut ourselves a bit of slack here when it comes to screen time. If you’re new to this whole working-from-home routine, then you may need to allow your kids a little bit of extra screen time while you adapt to this new situation. It’s not the end of the world if they watch an extra show or two. As long as it gives you that bit of peace and quiet so you can get your work done.
Give them some one-on-one time
It can help wonders to spend a bit of quality one-on-one time with your child. Have a bit of fun with them before work. Play a game together, read a story, bake some cookies, do a craft, etc. Whatever it is, be present in the moment, put your phone down, and give them your undivided attention. If you can do that for 10-15 minutes before you need to start your work, you will find that they are much more inclined to let you be while you work.
5. Create a schedule
Now, some people thrive on having clear schedules and boundaries in place. other parents enjoy a more relaxed, schedule-free approach. However, if you’re struggling to find time to be a good parent and get your work done, then a schedule might help you to balance it all. Decide on a schedule that works well for you and your family. Try to stick with it as best you can. Commit to an early morning if getting work done early works best for you. If you’ve told your child that your “workday” ends at 4:00 p.m., then be sure to close that laptop at 4:00 p.m. They will see that you are keeping up your end of the bargain.
It is not easy working from home when you have young kids. We often feel as though we’re not doing a very good job at either. Be kind to yourself and to your children. Work together to find a routine that works best for all of you. Be proactive and communicating your needs and your boundaries with all family members. You are setting everyone up for success.